It was a sad day in 1975 when Peter Gabriel announced he was leaving Genesis. Some argue that after the completion of their magnum opus, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, there was little else for him to do as lead singer for the band. The next two Gabrieless albums, A Trick of the Tail followed by Wind and Wuthering at least had the distinctive sound of Steve Hackett to carry them through in a recognizable form. But when Hackett left, the rump never really managed to recapture that special 70’s sound.
Gabriel’s first post-Genesis album, the eponymous Peter Gabriel, was a triumphant “coming out” and contained the hit single, Solsbury Hill, which hit the top 20 in the UK and top 70 in the US. The B-side was the oddly named Moribund the Burgermeister, a song about a Middle Ages outbreak of St. Vitus dance, presided over by the local burgermeister, Moribund.
This was, to my recollection, my first encounter with the word moribund, which caught my imagination because it sounded something dark and slow. The word originates from the Latin, mor-i, meaning “to die.” It appears in 16th century French as moribond, and also appears in Spanish as moribundo, and Italian as moribondo.
As an adejctive, one of the first references is in Todd’s Cyclopedia of Anatomy; “The state of the respiration in a moribund person is extremely various,” where it is used to mean in a dying state or at the point of death. By extension, it became useful as a word to describe anything on the point of ending. In an 1865 edition of the UK’s parliamentary Hansard procedings, the Earl of Derby says, “One of just such a character as might naturally have been expected to be addressed by an aged Minister to a moribund paliament.”
It also makes an appearance as a noun to refer to a person who is in a dying state. Mundy, in 1852, said, “There will be more lawyers than litigants, more medicos that moribunds.”
Id you really want to impress, try using it as a noun formed by the addition of the “-ity” suffix; moribundity. This is sure to cause a few folks to scratch their heads and others to marvel at your lexical skills. Perhaps.
On a return to offer a final musical note, there is a Swedish death metal band called Moribund and a Turkish metal band called Moribund Oblivion. Not only do the band names sound very similar, so do their songs.